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CNN NEWSROOM

Mother of Kanye West Dies; Feds Launch Investigation Into San Francisco Oil Spill

Aired November 12, 2007 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: One teen plotted to shoot up a school. Another actually did. One was in Pennsylvania, the other Finland, but the Internet brought them together. Today, only one is still alive, and his lawyer says he's horrified.
The East Coast has its nor'easters. The Pacific Northwest has -- well, this, a wicked storm packing winds as high as 97 miles an hour, and rain or snow, depending on your altitude. Jacqui Jeras is all over it.

Hello, everyone. I'm Kyra Phillips at the CNN Center in Atlanta. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

We're going to kick it off, though, with T.J. Holmes. He's in the NEWSROOM now, a developing story on a -- what type of fire is it, T.J.?

T.J. HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, a big one. We will start by saying that, Kyra.

Take a look at this picture. We will go straight to it in Ohio. Wellington, Ohio, is the location, picture coming in here to us. You call by this picture just what firefighters have on their hands here is a big fire, a big mess, a big problem.

This is, we're told, in downtown Wellington, Ohio, again, a live picture here, more of a closeup here of the fire itself. This is happening at a furniture store warehouse, we're told, a furniture warehouse there in Wellington. And, as you can imagine, there is a lot the fuel in there. There's a lot of wood in there, a lot of things in there that certainly can burn. And this thing is up in flames right now.

We do not have word right now of what caused this fire, how it started, how long ago it has been going, but people started calling this in, several 911 calls, after of course people started seeing these huge plumes of smoke, so 911 calls started flooding in. We don't know if people were working in this building, if there are any injuries to report, also if anyone, heaven forbid, would be trapped in this building right now.

But you can see, as we are seeing here, a few spots, very few spots where water is being put on this fire. We have only seen about two -- well, I have only been able to notice two streams of water that firefighters are using on this thing, so we don't know how many firefighters and how many trucks necessarily right now are on the scene of this fire, but word we're just getting in and pictures we're just getting in, Kyra, so we wanted to go ahead and pass it along to you, let you know that we are top of this story.

I'm sure we are going to get more details and we will pass them along to you when we get them -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. T.J., thanks.

HOLMES: Yes. All right.

PHILLIPS: And we're learning more about a chilling link between two very troubled teens. One committed a school massacre in Finland. The other allegedly plotted one in the U.S. They were separated by geography and culture, but apparently found common ground on the Internet.

CNN's Jim Acosta just spoke to the American teen's lawyer. He joins us from outside Philadelphia -- Jim.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good afternoon, Kyra.

And, yes, it appears they were chatting online. That is the extent of the connection between these two teenagers, but it's a chilling one. We just spoke with J. David Farrell. He is the attorney for 14-year-old Dillon Cossey. Cossey is the teenager who admitted to plotting a school shooting earlier this fall.

He was then taken into juvenile custody, where he is now. But this morning, the attorney for Dillon Cossey went to see his client to ask him about a published report that came out in the London newspaper over the weekend that stated that this teenager, Dillon Cossey, was speaking with an 18-year-old by the name of Pekka-Eric Auvinen over in Finland. He is the 18-year-old who shot and killed eight people at a school outside of Finland.

And, according to J. David Farrell, the attorney for Dillon Cossey, these two were indeed chatting online.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

J. DAVID FARRELL, ATTORNEY FOR DILLON COSSEY: ... one of the common interests the they had. And, like many, many young people, they accessed these Web site about Columbine. It's sadly the nature of the Internet that Columbine has taken on a reality that just doesn't go away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: And what David Farrell was referring to there is that essentially these two teenagers met on a Web site that was dedicated to the Columbine killers and that they were chatting on that Web site.

It's not really clear the extent of those conversations online. Apparently, they were talking video games, videos that they enjoyed, and also this affinity that they both shared for Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. In the meantime, the local district attorney here in Montgomery County says he is investigating this case and this connection between these two teenagers, but at this point does not see any additional crimes that this teenager here in Pennsylvania committed -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: We will stay on top of the investigation.

Jim Acosta, thanks so much.

Closed beaches, dead birds, and San Francisco's glittering bay an oily, stinking mess right now.

CNN's Dan Simon is on the scene at a disaster that some officials are calling a possible crime scene now -- Dan.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Kyra.

Let me set the scene for you first. San Francisco's beautiful landscape certainly tarnished, 20 beaches in all closed. You can see this beach right here and some of the containment booms trying to prevent the oil from actually reaching the sand. You can see some of the birds here on the beach. No wonder why so much wildlife has been impacted.

Really a lot of questions in terms of how this all occurred. The main question today, why it took the Coast Guard some four hours to notify the public about the magnitude of this spill. At first, they thought just 140 gallons had spilled from this cargo ship. And also there's really a question about how it happened in the first place. Why did this cargo ship strike the Oakland Bay Bridge?

It was a foggy day, but certainly the ships are equipped with navigation controls to prevent something like that from happening. Coast Guard Commandant Thad Allen addressed that question today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THAD ALLEN, U.S. COAST GUARD COMMANDANT: Well, you know, you had a competently manned ship with a pilot, all the navigation and sensors. There's probably some human error factors, but we need to determine the facts, because there was no reason a ship like this should have collided with a bridge.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SIMON: Meanwhile, the China shipping company and the crew are the subject of a criminal investigation. Apparently the Coast Guard is concerned about the communication among the people at the controls, that investigation being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board along with the U.S. attorney's office here in San Francisco.

In terms of the wildlife impact, obviously severe. At least 200 birds thus far have turned up dead, hundreds more have been recovered. And obviously a terrible site here, anytime you see one of these birds just soaked up in this gooey oil. PHILLIPS: Well, Dan, you bring up a good point, because I have been talking with someone from the California Department of Fish and Game, and they're actually asking people, members of the public, to stay off the beaches, because a lot of people are coming to the beaches with their dogs and it's scaring the birds away. And they actually want the birds to land and come to them, so they can help them.

SIMON: That's exactly right.

But as you can see, on a beautiful day like this, many people out here. As you can see, the camera pans, you can see just people just strolling about here. We're at the site called Crissy Field, a very popular place for tourists and residents alike.

Also, a number of residents, hundreds of people who live in the San Francisco Bay area have tried to come up and assist with the cleanup efforts, but because you're dealing with hazardous materials, folks here, the authorities here have told people really to stay away. It's obviously you don't want to get around this oil, because it's dangerous.

PHILLIPS: Sure. Not safe for many reasons.

Dan Simon, appreciate the update.

And we're learning more about the death of Donda West, Kanye West's mother. She was rushed to a hospital emergency room Saturday night in Los Angeles after a cosmetic surgery that was not performed at a hospital.

Brooke Anderson is following that story in Los Angeles -- Brooke.

BROOKE ANDERSON, CNN CULTURE AND ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, well, we are just getting word from the Los Angeles Coroner's Office that they will investigate the death of Donda West, due to possible complication from the surgery, from the procedure, and that they will conduct an autopsy on Wednesday.

As you mentioned, Donda West taken by paramedics to the emergency room of the Centinela Freeman Regional Medical Center in Marina Del Rey just outside of Los Angeles on Saturday evening.

This information comes to us from a hospital spokeswoman. They tried to revive her, but were unsuccessful. She was pronounced dead just before 9:00 local time Saturday evening.

The procedure, the cosmetic procedure did not take place at that hospital. That's what we know so far. Kanye West has been very quiet. So far he hasn't released a statement nor has he publicly spoken about his plans, whether he plans to take legal action or hire any lawyers. He actually wasn't in Los Angeles on Saturday. He was reportedly in London. He's been prepping for a European tour in support of his latest album called "Graduation." That tour scheduled to kick off in Amsterdam next week. We have reached out to the record label to find out if those upcoming tour dates will be or have been rescheduled. I have interviewed Kanye numerous times in the past. And I know this has to be devastating for him, because he's always been very open about how much he loved his mother, about how tight-knit they were.

We spoke to both of Donda and Kanye back in May, when Donda was promoting a book she wrote, and the title of the book is "Raising Kanye: Life Lessons from the Mother of a Hip-Hop Star." And, Kanye, at that book signing and that book promotion, talked about the best lesson that his mother taught him. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KANYE WEST, MUSICIAN: My favorite thing is that she said -- you know, I was working on music, and I was still living at home, and saying this is what I'm doing with my life.

And she said, you know, Kanye, until you get paid for it, it's still a hobby.

And that was just worded so eloquently in comparison to some of my friends' parents that said, you ain't never going to make it.

(LAUGHTER)

DONDA WEST, MOTHER OF KANYE WEST: (r)MD-BO¯Right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANDERSON: Now, Donda worked in academia for decades. She actually left her post as chairwoman of Chicago State University's English department back in 2004 to become Kanye's manager.

But recently her primary responsibility has been to head the Kanye West Foundation. That foundation works to combat the high school dropout rate in the United States. Kanye finished high school, but did drop out of college, actually, to pursue his music career.

As I said, he is an international hip-hop sensation, six Grammys, millions and millions of albums sold. He's also a very highly respected producer, has produced works for Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, and also John Legend.

And, Kyra, if I may, I want to read to you the last lines of Donda West's book. And it really kind of illustrates how close they were, and how much she loved and cared for her son.

And they read -- quote -- "I'm as grateful for having had Kanye as I am for life itself. And I'm grateful, too, for this opportunity to share my story."

So, there was an incredibly strong mother-son bond, obviously.

PHILLIPS: Well, and this is the number one clicked-on story on CNN.com, Brooke. And a lot of people are asking questions about where was she before she was rushed to Centinela Hospital. We still don't know exactly where she was.

So, a lot of people are wondering, was she at some shady clinic having this surgery?

ANDERSON: Right.

PHILLIPS: But viewers are actually writing in, saying that a lot of these plastic surgeons, especially in big cities, have these small O.R.s in their office. They do the surgeries there. So, they have minimal life-support equipment, so, if a real emergency occurs, they have to call 911.

ANDERSON: It is very common, Kyra.

Right now, we don't know the details of where that procedure or procedures took place. Her publicist tells CNN the death did follow a cosmetic procedure, but wouldn't elaborate on what those procedures were or where she was.

But one would hope that she was at a reputable hospital or clinic with a reputable doctor, but, at this point, those specifics are just not known.

PHILLIPS: All right, Brooke Anderson, appreciate it.

ANDERSON: Thanks.

PHILLIPS: Lots of Web users are leaving their thoughts and prayers for Kanye West and his family. You can read them or share your own on at CNN.com.

Straight to the NEWSROOM now, T.J. Holmes working a couple stories for us, first off this warehouse fire -- T.J.

HOLMES: Forgive me here, Kyra. I'm having a tough time hearing you.

But we're going to start with this fire in Ohio I believe you're heading to me to ask me about.

Let's go ahead and show you these live pictures. This is in Wellington, Ohio, where we believe this is a furniture store that is on fire here.

Let's get me live. Get my monitor here and get a better look at this picture that you all are looking at, a live picture here, a closeup here from our affiliates. We haven't seen too many hoses on this fire just yet. This fire has been going for a short time now, but, as you can imagine, people started seeing this and started calling in, saying, hey, we got a problem here.

And this we believe is a furniture store in Wellington, Ohio, downtown. We don't know if anyone was in the store at the time or if anybody in there, like we were saying a short time ago, God forbid, could still be trapped in there. We do not know that and don't have a reason to believe it just yet. But still waiting to get more information on this, but a furniture store, Wellington, Ohio, on fire. These pictures are just amazing. But you can tell this place is going to probably end up being a pretty big or probably a total loss, but (r)MD-BO¯fully engulfed in flames right now, Kyra. We're keeping an eye on that, certainly trying to get more details. That's -- those pictures, this information just coming in to us.

PHILLIPS: All right. What about that armed robbery in Florida?

HOLMES: Yes, this is one we have been watching for a little while now here in the newsroom, a live picture here we're showing to you out of Florida.

Davie, Florida, is where the armored car robbery happened, which resulted in an armored -- one of the guards being shot. But, according to police there, two men who were armed in ski masks, black males, approached one of the armored truck drivers, and came up to him and tried to take money from him. Gunshots were exchanged. And the guard ended up being shot.

The suspects fled. Well, police caught up with the suspect vehicle a short time later, but the suspects were nowhere to be found. We saw that picture just a short time ago before this picture that you're seeing now of police. They surrounded the area where they found that -- found the suspect vehicle, but no sign of the suspects just yet.

But one person shot here. Here, again, the live picture of a neighborhood is where they found the suspect vehicle that they fled in, but still no sign oft suspects, so they have set up a perimeter in this neighborhood, told people to stay inside their homes, and phone in any suspect activity that they're seeing, so something else we're keeping an eye on here in the newsroom -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: OK. T.J. Holmes, thanks so much.

HOLMES: All right.

PHILLIPS: Two brothers bound to each other by birth, bound to the U.S. Marines by choice, one severely wounded in Iraq, the other serving there now. The two Marines' emotional reunion ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM NEWSROOM.

No home, no money, but a wealth of courage.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just glad that I did the right thing at the right time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: He did the right thing, all right. A homeless man helps bring an alleged cop killer to justice, and now it's paying off. Is E.T. checking us out? Some Earthlings say yes and they're sharing their stories. We're going to go all X-Files on you in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: We're still following that warehouse fire out of Wellington, Ohio, these pictures coming to us from our affiliate WOIO.

It's a furniture warehouse fire that we're told. Not sure if anybody was inside that building, how the fire started, but you can see crews on the scene working it. We're trying to get details. We will bring you more; 3:18 Eastern time right now.

Here are some other stories that we're working on in the CNN NEWSROOM.

Word of a chilling link between a Pennsylvania teen accused of plotting a school massacre and a Finnish teen who carried one out. The American boy's lawyer says the two had chatted online on Web sites glorifying Columbine, but he says his client was shocked when the Finnish teen went on a rampage last week, killing eight others and himself.

The head of the Coast Guard says human error probably played a role in last week's huge oil spill in San Francisco Bay. A criminal investigation now under way into why a cargo ship hit part of the Bay Bridge, spilling 58,000 gallons of oil.

And we're now hearing that Benedict XVI will make his first U.S. visit as pope in April. He will make stops in Washington and New York.

Optical illusions, natural phenomena, visitors from outer space, which do you think is the real explanation for UFOs? Well, some pretty high-level leaders around the world are having that very discussion right now in Washington. Their own experiences might surprise you.

Gary Tuchman is there. And this is serious business.

Hey, Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Kyra.

Quite an unusual gathering today within the beltway to talk about experiences that might have originated from the Milky Way. Pilots, investigators, scientists and researchers from seven different countries gathered in Washington to discuss their shared experiences about UFOs; 14 people participated in this conference, including a former governor of Arizona, Fife Symington, who said he saw a UFO above southern Arizona in 1997.

Other speakers included a retired Iranian air force general who LOTT: lives there who says try to shoot down an extraterrestrial vehicle down, but says all its controls went haywire, to a retired Air France captain who says he and most of his passengers saw a huge flying disk.

Perhaps the most unusual story, though, came from a U.S. Air Force security officer, now retired, who while assignment at a base in England, was summoned to an aircraft that landed in the forest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TECH. SGT. JAMES PENNISTON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: When we came up on the triangular-shaped craft, there were blue and yellow lights swirling around the exterior as though they are part of the surface.

The air around us was electrically charged. And we could feel it on our clothes, our skin, and our hair. After roughly about 45 minutes, the light from the craft began to intensify. Burles (ph) and I then took a defensive position, away from the craft, as it lifted off the ground without any noise or air disturbance.

It maneuvered through the trees and shot off at an unbelievable rate of speed. It was gone in the blink of an eye.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUCHMAN: Now, the whole purpose of this conference was to try to convince skeptics this is a worthy field of study and to request that the FAA investigate such sightings.

The FAA has told us before that it -- quote -- "doesn't have the power to investigate."

Either way, until a sighting one day results in an aircraft landing and its inhabitants doing interviews with people like us, Kyra, there will be a lot of doubt about these claims.

PHILLIPS: I know you're a bit of a skeptic. And you want to know why they don't announce when they arrive.

Now, they believe that the U.S. government is withholding information, correct? Why do they think that?

TUCHMAN: They think, most people at this conference and most people who I have talked to before -- because we have done a lot of stories about this. And that is one interesting thing, Kyra, is that a lot of people who believe in UFOs say, I don't take it seriously. A lot of people who don't say, why are you even covering this?

We're just trying to tell an interesting story. But a lot of people at this conference today say the United States government has a motivation not to scare the people who live in this country, and it would scare us too much.

That being said, I brought up a question. Well, they often do scare us with these red alerts and orange alerts and terrorism and things like that. We get scared a lot. Why don't they think we can handle it? And they say because this involves people from other civilizations and other planets, and that's just way too scary.

PHILLIPS: All right. Gary Tuchman, we will be watching your report.

Are we alone? We have Gary's in-depth report on the UFO sightings tonight on "A.C. 360." The show begins at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Sending out an SOS, storms on the Black Sea, sunken ships, drowned sailors, an environmental crisis in the making.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BUSINESS REPORT)

PHILLIPS: Destroying bombs before bombs destroy lives. We are going to go out with the elite U.S. Army unit looking for IEDs in Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: T.J. Holmes still following a few stories for us -- T.J.

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this one in particular. We're talking about two suspects still on the loose right now, police are looking for in Florida, after the police say the two robbed that armored that you see right there. It had made a stop to pick up some cash at one of the cash drops. And two black males, they say, in ski masks approached the guards. Gunfire was exchanged and one of the guards was shot and then the suspects got away.

Now, the suspect vehicle, they took off and it was found by police at some time later. However, the suspects still nowhere to be found. We don't exactly know the condition of the guard who was shot, but that guard is at a hospital there. But the search continues right now for the two suspects.

Police do have a neighborhood -- an area surrounded, where they did find the suspect vehicle. But still no sign of the suspects right now. There's the vehicle -- that Dodge Magnum that the suspects took off in. And, again, people in that neighborhood are being asked to stay inside their homes and please call in if they see anything suspicious happening in the area. But certainly a dangerous situation, where they do have two -- and this -- this is the scene -- these are the pictures of the police actually getting to that vehicle for the first time. And, sure, they opened the door, as you see there, guns drawn. But they did not find anyone inside -- did not find the suspects. This was a short time ago, when they did catch up with the suspect vehicle and they approached it, as you see, very cautiously. But no suspects, still, at this point, to be found, Kyra. We're staying on top of this story. But a dangerous situation when you have, certainly, two armed and obviously dangerous suspects on the loose in a neighborhood.

PHILLIPS: All right.

T.J., appreciate it.

HOLMES: All right.

PHILLIPS: The winds are really howling in the Northwest right now -- Jacqui Jeras, you've been talking about this throughout the afternoon. You actually predicted it for us.

(WEATHER REPORT)

PHILLIPS: High waves, high winds, high drama in the Black Sea -- three sailors are dead, more than a dozen are missing and as many as 10 vessels have sunk or run aground in a fierce storm, one an oil tanker split in half, spilling more than half a million gallons of oil. The fear now, a monumental environmental disaster. A major cleanup is underway in the strait connecting the Black Sea and the Azov Sea.

In Iraq, an elite U.S. Army unit at war against roadside bombs.

Our Frederik Pleitgen went along on a mission and gives us an inside look.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

FREDERICK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This explosion possibly saved dozens of lives -- a controlled detonation of a roadside bomb by one of the busiest and most secretive U.S. Army units currently deployed in Iraq. Explosive ordnance disposal, or EOD, usually responds to several calls a day. This time, Staff Sergeant Nicholas Hardiek has received information -- two men left a suspicious package near an American military base.

STAFF SGT. NICHOLAS HARDIEK, U.S. ARMY: Now, we're going to go out and check it out for ourselves. They have already confirmed that it's an IED, so we're going to go out and make sure it is one before we do anything, and get rid of it.

PLEITGEN: EOD's technology is so confidential, we're not even allowed to show their vehicle, as we follow them to the scene.

(on camera): Right now, we're on our way to the place where the improvised explosive device was sighted. When we get there, a team is going to secure the area and then the EOD specialists will begin their work.

(voice-over): Most of that work is done using a robot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Please be advised, they're going to be shooting a couple trained denial mission (ph).

PLEITGEN: Troops on the nearby U.S. base fire mortar rounds to keep insurgents away. Using the robot, the specialists are able to defuse the bomb.

HARDIEK: There was four .57 millimeter projectiles, which are pretty prevalent around here. We find them a lot. They use them for anti-personnel. It's a smaller bang. That hook to a personal mobile radio, just -- it's like a walkie-talkie type. PLEITGEN: Like many other roadside bombs, Staff Sergeant Hardiek and his men have found, this one will be destroyed. But the most valuable bombs are the ones the EOD team can recover intact. These rockets were aimed at a military base, but U.S. troops found them in time. Now, they offer a wealth of information to Staff Sergeant Hardiek and the other EOD specialists. Even though there are no labels, he says he's certain they come from Iran.

HARDIEK: When you're watching football, how can you tell that the team you're watching is the Giants?

And it's -- they've got uniforms. I'd never mistake the Giants for, say, the Redskins or something like that. You look at them, they've got their key I.D. features and you just go from there.

PLEITGEN: The United States accuses Iran of providing weapons and ammunition to the insurgents in Iraq -- a claim Tehran continues to deny. The members of the EOD unit don't like to talk politics. All that matters to them, they say, is getting to the explosives before they can go off and cause damage.

Frederik Pleitgen reporting from Combat Outpost Cleary, Iraq.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PHILLIPS: Getting word now that Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, as seen in this video here, has been placed under house arrest. This is just one day before she planned a protest march from Lahore to Islamabad. As you know, this opposition leader is protesting President Pervez Musharraf's emergency rule that he says is an effort to crack down on Islamic terrorists and just massing up strength in a volatile tribal region there along the Afghan border.

Meanwhile, Benazir Bhutto saying that this emergency order amounts to martial law and is nothing more than a power grab by Musharraf, who is also, by the way, the country's military ruler. As you know, there's been pressure from the United States for Musharraf to call for elections and to put away his uniform for good.

We're following more now, as Benazir Bhutto is placed under house arrest.

Two brothers bound to each other by birth, bound to the U.S. Marines by choice -- one severely wounded in Iraq, the other serving there now. The two Marines' emotional reunion that you won't want to miss, straight ahead in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Americans pause to honor the nation's men and women in uniform. Yesterday was Veterans Day. But today is the federal holiday and ceremonies are taking place across the country. These are live pictures right now from the World War II Memorial in the nation's capital. And as Americans mark the day, the most visited monument in Washington reaches a milestone. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial, known as The Wall, is 25 years old. The black granite memorial enshrines the name of more than 58,000 American troops who lost their lives in the Vietnam War.

Ty Ziegel was a United States Marine. Take a look at the him -- handsome, wrong, strong, ready for duty, dedicated to the cause. Then came the sergeant's second tour in Iraq. He was on patrol. A suicide bomber walked up to Ziegel's truck and blew himself up. When it was over, Ty had lost part of his skull, his ears, his left forearm and three of the fingers on his right hand. He suffered terrible burns and devastating shrapnel injuries to his face. He was forced to leave the battlefield. But soon, Ty was facing a new fight with Veterans Affairs over money. Yes, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

This U.S. marine, who literally had his face blown off, had to battle for disability compensation. When Ty told me his story, we were touched on so many levels. But there was one special family connection that really grabbed our attention, so we decided to surprise him -- and it left all of us in tears.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

PHILLIPS: What about dealing with people day to day?

I know you probably get asked this all the time, but I mean even coming into the CNN NEWSROOM meeting strangers, walking down the street, going to the grocery store, it's got to be tough.

TY ZIEGEL, FORMER U.S. MARINE: Yes, you learn to deal with it. At first, it was kind of -- at first it was me who didn't want to be around people. And then it was kind of I'd get upset -- you know, you just run through the whole gamut. And then you just get to the point where it's like, you know, if you can't deal with it, then I can, you know?

PHILLIPS: Right.

T. ZIEGEL: It doesn't really bother me that much.

PHILLIPS: Do you find that -- do you have to talk with somebody?

Do you spend time with family more?

I mean how do you let it out?

How do you deal with those feelings of frustration?

T. ZIEGEL: Well, I don't really have any.

PHILLIPS: Your family -- you are very close with your family, specifically your brother, Zach.

T. ZIEGEL: Yes.

PHILLIPS: And he's over in Iraq now, right?

T. ZIEGEL: Correct.

PHILLIPS: So how did you feel about him going overseas and -- wow! Especially after what you've been through, what was that like?

T. ZIEGEL: Oh, I'm proud of him. I wish I could go back with him, but, you know, I think that's something he signed up to do and he wants to do, so I think he should do it. And it gets me pumped up just talking about it.

PHILLIPS: Really?

Why does it get you pumped up?

T. ZIEGEL: Because that's what Marines do.

PHILLIPS: I'm going to ask you a question.

Do you mind putting on the headsets here for a minute?

T. ZIEGEL: No.

PHILLIPS: I want you to hear something, if you don't mind.

T. ZIEGEL: OK.

PHILLIPS: And tell me when you've got them on there good.

T. ZIEGEL: Yes.

PHILLIPS: All right. Well, I had the -- I had the pleasure to link up with your brother. As a matter of fact, he's going to join us now live from Iraq.

Zach, can you hear us, OK?

ZACH ZIEGEL, MARINE CORPORAL: Yes, I can.

PHILLIPS: OK. Good. I've got your brother right here.

Can you hear him OK, Ty?

T. ZIEGEL: Yes.

PHILLIPS: All right. You're linked up.

Zach, anything you want to start off by saying to your brother? Because, you know, I've got a couple of questions for you.

T. ZIEGEL: Well, I'm just glad to hear from you. I heard your -- heard your little part of the interview and are trying to get me choked up over here or what?

T. ZIEGEL: Nope, trying to keep myself from it.

PHILLIPS: Does he give you strength when you see him, when you talk to him, when you see him in uniform, Ty?

T. ZIEGEL: Yes.

PHILLIPS: Tell me.

How does he give you strength?

T. ZIEGEL: Zach, your brother is speechless right now. He's actually got tears in his eyes. I'm trying to get him to tell me -- as he looks at you -- how he gives you -- how you give him strength. And it actually getting me a little choked up here, so I need you to rescue both of us and just tell us -- tell him why you love him so much and why the both of you get choked up when you have moments like this.

Z. ZIEGEL: Well, we both know that he'd much rather be over here with us. I think that's a part of the reason. You know, he sees me over here and, you know, part of him really, really wants to be with us. And you've got to honor that. You know, after everything he's been through, he still wants to be with his boys over in Iraq, you know?

And that's a pretty honorable thing, I think. And it's definitely a role model to me, I can tell you that right now. I wouldn't be this far through it if I didn't have him around.

T. ZIEGEL: That's my brother and he's there with all my other brothers.

PHILLIPS: Yes.

Do you worry about him or do you just want to be there with him?

T. ZIEGEL: A little of both, you know?

He's trained well. I don't know if I necessarily worry about him. But, you know, people would say when -- when I tell them he's going, oh, how can you let him go or how can he go after you've been through all this?

I'm like, you know, how many Marines do come home OK?

PHILLIPS: Right.

T. ZIEGEL: I mean for two brothers to get hit, you know, that would be a pretty chance, you know.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

PHILLIPS: Well, you can see more stories about vets like that in a CNN Broken Government report, -- "Waging War On the V.A." It airs Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

Get a pen and paper handy if you want to make the holidays just a little brighter for wounded vets. The Walter Reed Army Medical Center suggests you log onto this Web site -- AmericaSupportsYou.mil. There you can find out where needs are most urgent and how you can help veterans and active service members. Once again, that address is AmericaSupportsYou.mil.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PHILLIPS: Time to see what's clicking with all you CNN dot-comers today -- some of our most popular stories this hour.

The lone survivor of last month's Wisconsin shooting rampage that left seven people dead talks about the ordeal. Charlie Nidso (ph) calls the gunman, 20-year-old police Deputy Tyler Peterson, "a crazy psycho."

A mother's influence on a life and career -- a lot of you reading about the deep connection between hip-hop star Kanye West and his mother, Donda. She passed away unexpectedly this weekend at age 58. She'd been undergoing a cosmetic procedure in California.

And a bizarre twist in a story that already had a high weird factor. That is for sure. Remember the Boston priest accused of stalking late night host Conan O'Brien?

Well, on Friday, Father David Ajemian was found fit to stand trial and ordered held on $2,500 bond. Now, see if you can follow it from here. Ajemian posted bond and went to his parents' home. But Saturday they called police to report he was missing. Now, watch the surveillance tape from our Boston affiliate, WHDH. They say a man fitting Ajemian's description showed up at the station demanding to speak to an employee. The man got belligerent and was removed. The upshot -- Ajemian is reportedly back in Boston at a hospital there for psychological observation.

Killed in the line of duty last week, remembered and laid to rest today. A funeral in Florida this afternoon for 76-year-old Broward County sheriff's deputy, Paul Rein. He was shot on Wednesday, allegedly by a man he was driving to court to face robbery charges. Rein's family says the former mailman didn't get into law enforcement until later in life, but they say his badge, uniform and his role as protector meant everything to him. The deputy's alleged killer, Michael Mazza, is back in custody, thank in large part, to a homeless man who called police. Listen to this. Mark Spradley doesn't have a home, but he does have a car and the alleged killer flagged him down. Spradley later recognized Mazza from a TV in a pawn shop. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COURTESY WSVN)

MARK SPRADLEY, HELPED CAPTURE SUSPECT: My main demeanor was to not trigger him off, not make him panic. It was just to keep him occupied, keep him comfortable, keep his mind on that I'm in the store trying to buy some stereo speakers or trying to buy a speaker box, you know, have show him no kind of indication that something else was going to happen.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PHILLIPS: Spradley might not have to pawn anything any time soon. He's already gotten several thousand dollars for what he did and he may be eligible for a $25,000 reward from Crime Stoppers. We hope that he gets it. On the run for two days, now behind bars, Thomas Richard Lagano turned himself in at the urging of his grandparents. He's accused of robbing a bank in Metro Atlanta last Thursday, then giving police the slip during the afternoon rush hour. The chase caused a traffic nightmare. Police shut down a major interstate, hoping to catch him.

Time now to check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

He's standing by in "THE SITUATION ROOM" to tell us what's coming up at the top of the hour -- Wolf, what do you think, three hours and still going?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Three hours, that's right.

Thanks very much, Kyra.

Just ahead, he says the Democratic presidential candidates do not have an adequate understanding of the war on terror. But former U.N. ambassador John Bolton -- he's also blasting the Bush White House for what he calls a failed policy.

John Bolton will be here in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

Also, one critic now blasting Hillary Clinton as being like president George Bush -- and she's not doing that as a compliment. Another says Democrats need to get some backbone, but guess who those critics are?

They're other Democrats.

Why are members of the party trashing their own?

And violent crime is on the rise, but some fear it could get even worse. Thousands of drug offenders now in prison could soon be back on the streets -- set free early by officials working for the federal government. That and a lot more coming up right here, right here in "THE SITUATION ROOM".

PHILLIPS: Wolf, we don't think three hours is enough for you. We want more.

BLITZER: It's plenty, trust me.

PHILLIPS: Are you sure?

BLITZER: Yes.

PHILLIPS: You can handle it?

BLITZER: You do three hours -- like Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right. We'll see you tomorrow.

BLITZER: Thanks.

PHILLIPS: Well, buckle up. A company slogan gets put to the test and a very satisfied customer offers his heart-stopping endorsement.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: Well, the driver says this is proof that his truck is built Ford tough. The company slogan doesn't mention driving skills, though. The Cincinnati man says that he was merely just backing out of his parking spot when his floor mat apparently got jammed on the gas pedal and prevented him from hitting the brakes. The next stop -- one floor down. No one was hurt.

The closing bell is about to ring on Wall Street.

Stephanie Elam is standing by with a final look at the trading day -- hi, Steph.

(STOCK MARKET REPORT)

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